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Melbourne’s Top 10 Events this Winter: Art, Food and Festivals

Melbourne’s Top 10 Events this Winter: Art, Food and Festivals

Picture of Kristin O’Connell
Updated: 9 February 2017
Internationally celebrated for its thriving cultural scene, Melbourne’s events celebrating art and culture reach their zenith during the winter months. Melbournians do not hibernate: this is the season for feeding the mind and soul with art, festivals and hot baths. From contemporary art exhibitions to interactive shows and inspiring festivals, here are ten of the best art and culture events taking place in Melbourne in Winter.

Theatre | Wicked the Musical

Various dates this summer

Ever wondered what happened before Dorothy dropped into the Land of Oz? Wicked is the untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. This spellbinding tale of their families, friendship and secrets has won 90 international awards including a Grammy and three Tony Awards, while The New York Times declared it the defining musical of the decade. First brought to Australia in 2008, the Broadway hit returned in 2011 and is back by popular demand for a third season in 2014. The show is staged in Melbourne’s grand Regent Theatre, first opened in 1929 as a picture palace. The Regent has survived flood, fire and demolition threats to stand as a lavish monument to Melbourne’s passion for theatre and provides a spectacular backdrop for Wicked.

Wicked, Regent Theatre, 118 Collins Street Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, +61 1300 11 10 11

Kerry O’Brien Publicity
Courtesy Kerry O’Brien Publicity


Architecture | Open House Melbourne

Annually in July

From small beginnings in 2008 with just eight buildings open for inspection, to more than 134,000 people visiting participating properties in 2013, Open House Melbourne showcases more than 100 commercial, residential and green buildings to the public. This is a rare and free opportunity to deeply engage with the urban environment by exploring the city’s hidden architectural, engineering and historic gems. Enter the ballot to peak inside the Grand Ballroom in Flinders Street Station, take a special tour of the Block Arcade, established in 1892 and one of Australia’s first malls, or explore modern designs such as Medibank Private House, the Royal Children’s Hospital and cutting-edge private spaces. The accompanying Speaker Series features top designers who share their passions and visions for city. Pick some comfortable shoes, grab a smartphone (OHM has its own app to help with finding venues nearby) and discover what’s behind ordinarily closed city doors.

Various venues across the city


Performance | Arts Centre Melbourne

Various dates/performances this Winter

Perched on the banks of the Yarra River and beneath one of Melbourne’s iconic structures – the illuminated spire – the Arts Centre Melbourne is Australia’s largest and busiest performance space, showcasing local and international music, opera, theater and dance companies. Following major renovations in 2013, the Centre is back with expanded foyers, amenities and spectacular city views. Look for performances by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra or Bangarra Dance Theatre. Australia’s leading Indigenous performing arts group, Bangarra respects and rekindles the links between traditional Indigenous cultures of Australia and new forms of contemporary expression. Not to be missed.

Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia, +61 3 9281 8000


Arts Centre Melbourne
Jess Bialek | Courtesy Bangarra Dance Theatre


Film | Melbourne International Film Festival

July – August

Established in 1952, the Melbourne International Film Festival is one of the oldest film festivals in the world and the most significant screen event in Australia. In 2014 the schedule features Wong Kar-wai’s long-awaited martial arts epic, The Grandmaster, alongside Sundance award-winning 20,000 Days on Earth. This documentary traces the creative process of Australian writer and musician Nick Cave and captures the moments of his 20,000th day alive. Shot on location around Melbourne, Predestination blends sci-fi, noir and crime fiction from Australian twins and directors, the Spierig brothers. Audiences can choose from hundreds of screenings and film-focused events taking place all over the city, including the Opening Night Gala for cinephiles and partygoers alike.

Various venues across the city


Melbourne International Film Festival
Courtesy Melbourne International Film Festival

Design | Rose Street Artists’ Market


Rose Street Artists’ Market has been showcasing handmade local art, fashion and design for more than 10 years whilst keep shoppers warm and well fed in the winter months. Located in a former junkyard off Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, this weekend market retains its vibrancy all year round. From 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. wend through the open-air stalls to the old industrial warehouse. Crowds flock every weekend to collect, source and commission furniture, artwork, clothing, homewares, textiles and jewellery. This friendly market is also the best place in town meet and speak with designers in person. And once worn out by shopping, find respite at the Young Bloods Diner upstairs where the creativity continues and hearty breakfast fare is on offer all day. In keeping with the market’s theme, even the beer is handcrafted.

Rose Street Artists’ Market, 60 Rose Street, Fitzroy, Australia, +61 3 9419 5529

Literature | Melbourne Writers’ Festival

Annually in August

Melbourne is one of only seven UNESCO Cities of Literature thanks to its rich literary history and contemporary enthusiasm for the written word. The Melbourne Writers’ Festival embraces the widest possible range of writing, from Nobel Prize winners to star bloggers. Its program includes storytelling sessions, conversations with authors and industry professionals, live performance, music and presentations of literary art. The program brings over 400 leading Australian and international thinkers and writers to the city, to engage audiences via inspiring and thought-provoking panel discussions and interviews. Program highlights of the past included Sir Salman Rushdie and tweeting Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, as well as Mexican campaigner against corruption Lydia Cacho and Elizabeth Kolbert, science writer for The New Yorker.

Various venues across Melbourne


Melbourne Writer’s Festival
Courtesy Melbourne Writer’s Festival


Sport | Aussie Rules Football

Various dates this Winter

Sport is essential to Melbourne’s social fabric. And in a city famous for its year-round offerings of tennis, Formula One, cricket, rugby and horse racing, no game is more celebrated than the Australian Football League, with weekly matches regularly amassing 80,000-strong crowds from March through to the city-stopping grand final in September. Played over two fast-paced hours on an oval field, 18 athletes per team avoid tackles to bounce, pass or kick an ovoid ball in any direction towards their two sets of goals. Sound chaotic? The buzz off the field is just as electrifying, with rivalries exposed between adoring fans who usually follow a single team for life. Without doubt, the best place for spectating is the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a 100,000-capacity multipurpose stadium hosting matches on weekends and public holidays. Choose a team, don a scarf, grab a meat pie and join the footy fans for a truly Melbourne winter event.

Various venues across the city


Art | Winter Masterpieces

Annually over the Winter months

Every Winter the National Gallery of Victoria showcases a jaw-dropping exhibition featuring international artwork, that is rarely on display to the public. Past Masterpieces included Madrid’s Museo del Prado. The Prado’s holdings of paintings and drawings is unrivalled, and many of its pieces have left Spain for the first time to appear in Italian Masterpieces, exhibiting all winter at the National Gallery of Victoria. The selection moved through High Renaissance works by the likes of Correggio, through Cambiaso’s examples of Mannerism, towards the Realism of Castiglione and Carravaggio. For this special exhibition, the NGV revives one of the most popular events in Melbourne, its Friday Night series, for guests to enjoy the show after hours. An impressive line-up of musical acts, talks and DJs will take the stage, all under Great Hall’s spectacular stained-glass ceiling. You can visit Masterpieces from the Hermitage until November 8, 2015

National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia, +61 1300 182 183


Animation | Music | Film


Running all winter, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image presents a feature exhibition. In the past these included Pixar Animation or more recently, DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition. From the studio that created Shrek, Madagascar, Ants and Kung Fu Panda, this was the biggest exhibition in ACMI’s history. Visitors journey from sketch to scene with over 400 pieces of rare and never-before-seen illustrations, models and artworks; in the drawing room, visitors could even try animating with the same technology used by DreamWorks’ professional artists and designers. In an ACMI interview about what makes their work so special for audiences, DreamWorks Chief Creative Officer Bill Damaschke said ‘People young and old need to see themselves in our characters … our films are about characters that are trying to accomplish things, trying to find love, trying to make a difference in the world. There is a universal truth to every story, just like there is in every person.’

ACMI, Federation Square, Corner Flinders and Swanston Streets, Melbourne, Australia, +61 3 8663 2200


Dreamworks on Display
Courtesy ACMI and Andrew Morley


Outdoor | Peninsula Hot Springs


Escape the city for an indulging day bathing in natural hot springs just 90 minutes south of Melbourne. Described by InStyle magazine as ‘Victoria’s heated health mecca’ and set amidst stunning native Australian gardens, the springs boast private and shared baths, a reflexology walk, an underground sauna, Turkish steam room, thermal showers and a cave pool. Water temperatures range from the high 20s to 42 degrees Celsius. The hottest of them all is perched high on a hillside to provide 360-degree views across peninsular fields and out to sea. With a café, picnic area and spa centre offering treatments from massage and facials to body wraps and scrubs, there’s no wonder the hot springs won Australia’s Best Mineral Spa in the 2014 World Spa Awards. Booking is not essential but highly recommended.

Peninsula Hot Springs, Springs Lane, Mornington Peninsula, Australia, +61 3 5950 8777


Peninsula Hot Springs
Courtesy Peninsula Hot Springs